As most of you know, I am the Rabbi’s Assistant and Office Manager at Temple Israel. This period of learning and getting to know the congregation has been uplifting as well as challenging.
I was excited to be offered this position, as I had a sense that I needed to do something “Jewish” after my layoff from 20 years with a disability agency in the State of Florida.
Last November, I had the opportunity to journey to Israel, for the first time since I went to high School and college there, back in the late 60’s. I believe that G-d led me to Israel and to Temple Israel to bring me back to the core of who I am and where I belong.
When I started working at TI, I chose to change my temple membership. It seemed to make sense, and was convenient. I did not know at the time that Temple Israel would become so dear to me in such a short time.
Once we finished the High Holyday services, I settled down to look at the programs at TI, to see what I will be involved in. Rabbi Pat had shared with me a bit about Chai Mitzvah, mostly in the context of announcements, taking names of interested members, etc. I looked more closely at the program and realized that in order to take my understanding of Judaism to the next level, I needed to be challenged, and I needed to open myself up to new experiences. Chai Mitzvah looked to be a good opportunity and I signed up.
On October 10th, the Chai Mitzvah class met for the first time. Walking into the social hall, with 20+ other participants gave me a sense of peace and acceptance. I felt immediately that we were on a journey together. We started with prayer, and then opened up the first booklet on the topic of “Adult Rites of Passage.” A vigorous discussion ensued. We discussed the rites of passage that we typically engage in, such as birth, initiation into adulthood, marriage, becoming an elder. Then we shared rites of passage that are not the ones encased in culture or religion, but are nonetheless crucial for each of us individually.
We looked at texts both from the Bible and from Pirke Avot and then went on to discuss the relevance of ritual in our times. We read an example of one woman’s search for a ritual that brought her into her 60th year. It was eye opening to read how she took the occasion of her 60th birthday to build a ritual and bring both the personal and communal into it.
Then we took on the challenge of thinking about how we will proceed with our own growth. We were presented with these categories, Individual Jewish Study, Social Action and Ritual, to think about our own goals. As best we could, we filled in our general goals for this year of study and action. I am sure that many of us will change or adjust our initial goals.
Following our lesson, we drew ourselves into the holy experience of Havdallah. As we used our senses to move us from holy to regular, we said shalom to Shabbat.
I feel grateful for the wisdom of Rabbi Pat as well as the sharing of fellow Chai Mitzvah students, and look forward to this year of growth, community and, of course, excellent pot luck meals together.